Background: Food allergy (FA) is an important health problem for which epidemiologic studies are needed.
Objective: We performed an epidemiologic survey in France to determine the prevalence, clinical pictures, allergens, and risk factors of FA.
Methods: This study was conducted on 33,110 persons who answered a questionnaire addressed to a representative sample of the French population on a scale of 1:1000 (44,000 subjects aged </=60 years). One thousand one hundred twenty-nine persons with FA selected during phase 1 received a second questionnaire.
Results: The reported prevalence of FA is 3.52%: 3.24% evolutionary FA; 0.12% asymptomatic cases thanks to eviction diets; and 0.17% cured FA. The subjects were characterized by overrepresentation of city dwellers (80% vs 76%), women (63% vs 50%), and health care personnel (11% vs 4%). Fifty-seven percent (vs 17%) presented with atopic diseases (P <.01). FA was often persistent, lasting more than 7 years in 91% of the adults. The most frequent allergens were 14% Rosaceae, 9% vegetables, 8% milk, 8% crustaceans, 5% fruit cross-reacting with latex, 4% egg, 3% tree nuts, and 1% peanut. Sensitization to pollen was significantly correlated with angioedema, asthma, rhinitis, and fruit allergy (P <.01). FA was 4 times more frequent in patients with latex allergy. The main manifestations of FA were atopic dermatitis for subjects under 6 years of age, asthma for subjects between 4 and 6 years of age, and anaphylactic shock in adults over 30 years of age (P <.007). Shocks were correlated with alcohol or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug intake (P <.01 and P <.04, respectively).
Conclusion: The prevalence of FA is estimated at 3.24% (range, 3.04% to 3.44%) in France. This study emphasizes the increasing risk of FA in well-developed countries and draws attention to certain FA risk factors, such as the intake of drugs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, beta-blockers, and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors) or alcohol, intolerance of latex gloves, and socioprofessional status.